Response to Campus Op-ed Article

     For those of you who have been off-campus for Winter Study, have graduated or have been too busy to hear, there has been much discussion about a recent op-ed written in the Williams Record, titled “Accepting the Majority.” Many were quick to react negatively to some of the remarks and the expressed sentiment of the piece, my aim is not to condemn the author’s words or feelings. Rather, I simply want to equally express my own personal issues with the talks on difference and diversity, while also addressing some of the points brought up by the author. In this piece, the student is right to note that the College has put special emphasis on recognizing and celebrating “diversity”, or as the author states, “the distinctiveness of the experiences of students who do not fit the traditional mold of a student at an elite liberal arts institution.” However, she believes that this emphasis, particularly for her during First Days was detrimental to her experience as an upper-middle class legacy student. Because of the rhetoric of difference, this author felt that her background and identity was/is undervalued and seen as not as important. As such, she advocates an examination of the ways in which we approach these conversations so as to bridge the divisive feelings in the College community, a goal that we all can agree on. However, the path to that goal differs for me and this author.

                Early in the article, the author recalls the first few assemblies for the Class of 2013 where the administration celebrated the number of people of color, international students and first-generation students that made up this class. This conversation led her to feelings of lesser self-worth, as if her experiences, the path she took to make it to Williams, was lessened and cheapened in comparison with the experiences of these select groups. However, I was also a part of those assemblies. What I also remember is the administration mentioning how many women were a part of this class, something the author conveniently overlook. My point is, we need to be aware of who this institution was made by and initially designated for, and thus who the structures of this institution inherently benefit. This college was founded primarily by and attended by upper-middle class or wealthy White men. It was not that long ago when that first class of women was admitted. My point is, there is a stereotype about who comprises the “majority” on this campus. But there is hardly anyone who exactly fits that mold. There are minority legacy students who do not pay financial aid; there are financial aid students that are White, recruited athletes, and many other combinations in between. Because of this, we all carry some quantity of privilege. All of our experiences are unique, different and special, but there we are all individuals. While we may self-identify with one group, we also fit in with many other layered identities simultaneously. Part of the college experience is being able to adapt, grow and change. With this evolution, we will all move through and amongst several “identity” groups, which is natural. If someone feels completely isolated or alienated, perhaps the issue is that they are closing themselves into a narrow and suffocating identity box.

My second main issue comes with the assertion that certain students feel as if they are unwelcome at activist’s meetings, community forums or in specific circles. More specifically, the author addressed the issue of “space.” While acknowledging that it is important to create spaces where minority students feel comfortable, the author says that these spaces should not be unwelcoming to the “majority” because these unspecified spaces are meant to be safe and welcoming to all community members. Here is what I feel. There are certain spaces that are inherently linked to certain minority groups, primarily the Morley Circle houses. While they are linked to specific minority groups, they are already public spaces, free to be used by any community member, just like most any other space on campus. That being said, the primary users of those spaces happen to be individuals of a certain “minority” status. But more importantly, these are spaces that are primarily used by “friends.” For example, the Physics Common Room is another public space, but primarily used by a certain circle. If I were to walk in there, already feeling as if I have no ownership of that space, people can sense that. Furthermore, I would be a new face into a space that is commonly used by a certain circle, no different than a new student walking into a lunchroom at a new school. Now if I were to walk in there and simply introduce myself and let it be known I am there to use the space as they use it, would I be alienated or kicked out? I highly doubt it. All it takes is the confidence to know that you have some agency and right to a space, and reach out. People naturally congregate to where friends are. That is what these spaces are meant for primarily. Now ask yourself honestly, did you walk into the space and take the initiative to bridge any preconceived bridges and find where your identities and interests overlap? Or did you see yourself as a member of the “majority” and those within that space as members of the “minority?”

                My point is simple. While there is an idea of a “majority”, there is hardly a person on this campus, or in any community who neatly fits into that category. We are all complex, multi-faceted people. There are absolutely feelings of divisiveness on this campus, and like the author I do believe that they stem from the way we think and talk about difference and diversity. As a community we absolutely must examine and rethink the ways we talk about each of those terms. At the end of the day, we are more often more alike than we are different. But if you tend to focus on the ways you are different, emphasize simply the ways that you are different; then yes you will have feelings of alienation. If you are so quick to subscribe to the idea of the “majority”, then perhaps a part of the issue is the way you define what and who represents the “minority.”

 

One Love,

Don S. Polite Jr.

Link to original Williams Record article here http://williamsrecord.com/2013/01/16/accepting-the-majority/

Advertisements

Decision 2012

It is now decision day 2012. November 6, 2012 is the day we decide as a country who will be the next president of the United States of America. It is also my first time being able to vote in a presidential election, as is the case for most of us. I remember 4 years ago the momentum and the excitement that was riding behind Barack Obama. It was almost as if the sheer excitement alone won him that election, and it truly was an amazing thing to witness, even though I was not able to place my own vote. But this election, Campaign 2012, is so far removed from 2008. There were no Boondocks episodes and songs featuring Will.I.Am and Thugnificent promoting Obama’s presidency. Neither was there the active Diddy “Vote or Die” movement. That is not to say that we are any more apathetic; which is the claim that is placed on us as a generation. But the excitement, that relentless energy, hope and optimism is not the same. Instead, we are caught in the real grind, muck that politics truly can be. It cannot and will not be as fun and entertaining as 2008. And we have come to grips with that in the nation in different ways.

Nothing can be more revealing of the actual climate that we are in than just the talk and reactions surrounding the campaign trail and especially the debates. It started with that first debate where our own Qaim Wynter, Class of ’14 stated “What seemed to be a sure fired Obama victory was put in question after his lackluster performance in the first debate, and conversely Romney’s impressive performance.” That followed with a Biden-Ryan debate that attempted to curb the Romney ticket’s momentum, and admittedly President Barack Obama did right the ship, or turn back up the heat in the campaign during the next two debates. But the mood was different in these debates than in 2008. Even the most die-hard of us could feel it. I personally heard from people who said that at times, viewing parties that were attended by those of one side would frequently turn to opposition jeering events. But even through our jeers, we could see what was happening.

This is best captured by Michella Ore ’16 who wrote concerning the third debate “Throughout the debate I couldn’t help but feel that I was watching two children bickering with each trying to prove to their mother (the moderator) that they were right and the other was wrong. While I felt Obama made some great comments, I felt they were overshadowed by his somewhat childish interjections that detracted from the importance of his message and which also could feed into the notion from the opposing side that he is not suitable for the respectable role of president.” Indeed, that has been the sentiment amongst many. But through it all, we all have made it to this day, November 6th, and we have seen the ups and downs of each candidate as they have probably revealed more to us than they have intended.

But nonetheless, we have a decision to make. Reading an article in The Economist magazine, even they are not on an emotional high entering this election. As a matter of fact, they worded it more harshly when stating they would endorse “the devil we know”, (referring to Obama) rather than “the devil we don’t” (referring to Romney) if I remember it correctly. While I strongly condemn that kind of language, the message is clear. They, along with many others are approaching this election cautiously, if not begrudgingly. But I must urge us all, not to avoid the polls. There are those that without a clear devotion for one candidate over the other, would rather abstain. But I cannot stress enough the need we have for you all to make sure that if you are registered to vote, you make your sure to go to the nearest polling center today. Even if you only like one candidate slightly more than the other. Your vote is vital, and I will not push you in any direction over the other. The only direction I’m pushing you to is to the voting booth. After that, we will all witness what our collective American voice is saying. With that I will leave you with the words of Qaim Wynter again, “In this election Americans have a choice between two men who each represent completely different worlds within America. What’s your America?”

Decision 2012

One Love,

Don Polite Jr. ‘13

VP Debate

Last night Vice President Joe Biden and Paul Ryan faced off on the sole vice-presidential debate. What was apparent, and what will go unchallenged regardless of who you ask, is that Joe Biden was the aggressor. However, you will find disagreement on if this was positive or negative. For example, CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen said that “On style I think that Paul Ryan won the debate. The Biden dismissive laughs, the interruptions, the sort of shouting, I think that Ryan was calmer and frankly more presidential.” At the same time, CNN Chief National Correspondent John King said, “The vice president came and showed fight. He showed his boss what it is to engage and engage and attack and attack and attack”. But despite of their positions, both campaigns acknowledged that it would probably have minimal effect on the race one way or the other.

As for the substance of the debates, a number of issues were addressed, largely the economy, the budget deficit and foreign policy. For instance, Paul Ryan argued that President Obama’s foreign policy projects weakness, citing his reaction to the terror attacks on the U.S.  consulate in Libya. Biden would retort that the Obama administration was simply responding to information that was given to them by the intelligence community. Another issue that arose was that of abortion where Vice President Biden cautioned that whoever the next president is would be able to choose one or two new justices on the Supreme Court which would essentially control the future of the abortion debate.

But moving forward, the Romney campaign continues to build momentum as Romney has tightened the gaps in both battleground states and national polls. In fact, in the latest Fox News national poll of likely voters Romney holds a 46 to 45 percent edge. But President does hold slight edges in most of the crucial swing states, but some of these leads are within the margin of error. This makes the next two debates crucial as even President Obama acknowledged a “bad” performance the last debate. The next debate will be held Tuesday night, October 16 at 8pm again and will be a town hall format focusing on a range of issues.  We encourage you to join the BSU as we host another viewing party for this event in Rice House. As always, stay informed, stay active.

One Love,

Don S. Polite Jr. Political Education Coordinator

       …

                We are now officially four days removed from the first presidential debate of election season, and first of all, I must state how beautiful it was to have Rice House full of people tuning in to watch this debate together. I thank you all for taking time out of your evening to view this event with the BSU. Now, granted while we as a group primarily tended to discredit what GOP candidate said, the immediate response from viewers was that Romney “won” the debate, or “beat” incumbent President Obama. But allow me to put this into perspective.

                This first debate largely circled around issues of the economy, with several references to Obamacare, unemployment and taxes. Now since GOP candidate Mitt Romney has a particular strong financial and business background, it can be expected that this sphere would allow him the best chance to have a good showing. But it does go beyond this, what does it actually mean to “win” a debate? I tend to want to put it this way. In the days and weeks leading up to this debate, Romney had suffered a string of events that were hurting his campaign, including the remarks he made in the recently released video. Because of this and other gaffes, Romney entered this debate in a particularly vulnerable position from his candidacy anyway. What many expected was for Obama to capitalize on this, to essentially bury Romney while he was down. However, Romney was aggressive throughout the debate (sometimes excessively so), and attacked Obama and his policies throughout. While Romney did not at points detail any program that he would promote, his attacking stance instead kept Obama on the defensive throughout the night. And many have taken Obama’s cool demeanor to signify an air of either aloofness, or at worst, “smugness”, as I have read in articles posted on Yahoo and Fox News. They criticize Obama for having an almost “professorial” tone during debates and speeches. All of these factors combined for a situation in which Romney was able to not only curb the downward spiral that his campaign had been suffering through, but also generate some positive momentum coming out of the debate, instead of being pushed further down. Thus, this created a “win” for the debate. But what exactly has this “win” meant?

                In one of the first full post debate surveys, the Rasmussen Poll, Romney now has the support of 49% of voters nationwide, with Obama holding 47%. But let us keep in mind that this poll also shows that Obama still holds the lead in 11 swing states, including the four most crucial: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Florida. But those leads have shrunk slightly since the debate. But while many undecided voters did say that Romney had impressed them from this debate, there  are still many more who remain undecided and are anxiously awaiting the next two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate before they make their final decision. As always, I will try to keep everyone as up to date as possible. This next Wednesday will feature Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in their debate, with the two presidential debates largely to focus on issues such as foreign policy, immigration and issues critical to women’s rights groups, which make those also incredibly important. As always stay informed and consider me just a humble instrument of information.

One Love,

Don S. Polite Jr.

1 week until First Presidential Debate

This is Don coming back at my “U” family. We are still a few weeks away from election day, however, more immediately, we have the first presidential debates less than a week away. If you want to join me, and other members of the BSU, there will be a viewing session at Rice House at 9 hosted by yours truly. However, on to the news of the week in review. Several articles have been addressing what we should know as the particularly important “swing” states, being Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio specifically. What is the importance of these handful of states? Well, just between Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania combined, these three states account for nearly a quarter of the electoral college votes necessary to win the White House. To underline this even more, CNN reports that in “modern times”, no Republican candidate has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio.  Then what is the current state of the swing states, and Ohio particularly? According to polls, President Obama currently holds a lead in each of these four swing states, with a 53%-43% lead with those likely to vote over opponent Mitt Romney. Given its importance, each candidate has spent several  days in Ohio in the lead-up to next week’s debates.

The topics of interest for these campaign stops, particularly on Wednesday the 26th, were China, taxes and jobs. In terms of China, each candidate has proposed a hard stance on China’s trade practices. The divergence is that GOP candidate Romney has accused current President Obama of not being tough enough and that he would label them as “currency manipulators”. President Obama has retorted that GOP candidate’s past practices have been lax in comparison to the stance he is portraying presently. Then of course, there is the issue of taxes and the economy.  Following an article from CNN, the short view of their two stances are that Romney would follow a “trickle-down” approach to economics, while Obama champions a position which values keeping taxes low for the low and middle class to grow the economy from the middle out.

It would be interesting to see each candidate expand more on their views as each of these is a very vague description. Perhaps issues of taxes and economics will take central stage next week during the political debates, giving us an opportunity to see them address each other directly for the first time in a while. I do hope that you all find the time to watch the debates, and if not I will do my best to recap the main points this time next week. As always, if there is more specific information that you would personally like to know about, let me know and I will search it down for you. As always, just trying to be an instrument of knowledge and information.

One Love,

Don S. Polite Jr.

48 Days Until Election Day

The main campaign story of the week as I have been able to follow has centered around GOP candidate’s “victims” remarks. If you have not heard, allow me to catch you up on the story. A video has been circulating of Romney speaking at a fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida on May 17 of this year. In this video, Romney is heard responding to a question posed to him from the audience, and he is heard responding, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” Throughout the week, Romney has attempted to defend and clarify these remarks which he claims were not “elegantly stated”.
      In an attempt to defend his remarks, Romney offered up two remarks regarding his views on the economy. First, “I do believe that we should have enough jobs and enough take-home pay such that people have the privilege of higher incomes that allow them to be paying taxes,” said Romney this week. He would also proclaim that the right course for America is to “create growth, create wealth”.  And lastly, Romney is also quoted as saying, “It’s a message which I am going to carry and continue to carry, which is that the president’s (Obama’s) approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes because frankly my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them. Therefore I’m not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively as those in the middle.”  One Romney funder, and Republican National Committee member also defended Romney’s remarks by saying, “Romney believes in capitalism and the free market and wants to create 12 million jobs.
     Obviously, I think the president (Obama) is perfectly comfortable promoting government dependence.”     What does this mean on the campaign trail so far? Well, in three “swing” or “battleground” states, (Ohio, Virginia and Florida), current President Obama is holding slim leads. New polls have not quite reflected how badly or if these comments have damaged the image of GOP candidate Romney.  But the question I pose to myself is, should it? First off, the idea that 47% of people do not pay federal income taxes does seem to me like a gross exaggeration. But for me, that is not the main issue that I feel we should address. What bothers me is that GOP candidate Romney states that his policies should appeal to the middle class. But if 47% of the American population, (as he states) is not even paying federal income tax, and is relying on the government, how big is this “middle” that Romney speaks of? 47% would put half the nation in his estimation darn near levels of poverty.  I can agree that job growth is important, that all families should be working with a workable wage where paying taxes is feasible. However, labeling half the country as “dependent” is something I have an issue with. The idea that the government should work to create “wealth” is another idea I am not comfortable with. Again, this is personal. What is the public benefit of “wealth”? Wealth in my mind promotes people accumulating way past needs, at the expense of others. Should that be the goal of our national economic plan, individual wealth? Or should we instead be aiming for stabilization of our financial security while assuring a semblance of basic living standards for those who are struggling, often in spite of their own efforts?
     But these are simply the questions that I have running on my mind. I do have my own opinions, and I do believe strongly in them. As always, I will always present information to you, as I received them. And I will always draw from a wide array from sources so as to avoid presenting information from any one source with any partisan biases that they present. I can never divorce my own ramblings and thoughts concerning the campaign from the posts, but my wish and desire is first to inform, and then offer my own sense of things. If there are any issues concerning policies that you wish to be included in any future posts, feel free to find me and I will do my best to put together the information you desire. I will always include links to the original articles so that you are free to form your own interpretations. Our obligation to each other as citizens, brothers and sisters and Americans is to make sure that we are all informed. And always make the attempt to listen to each other with an open mind and heart, acknowledging that there will not be a consensus opinion. Either way, I hope to see you all politically active, engaged and excited for Election Day. I do believe that this is an important election, and every vote counts.
One Love,
Don Sidney Polite Junior